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Porsche 911 Classics In The Spotlight

Shining the spotlight on some of the most iconic classic cars

In this new series of articles, we're shining the spotlight on some of the most iconic classic cars of all time, tracing their history and exploring what makes them so legendary.

First we're going to take a look at the Porsche 911, which is still going strong after more than 50 years.

If you are in the market for one yourself, check out our cars for sale.

The birth of a legend

The 911 began life in 1959 at the pen of Ferdinand 'Butzi' Porsche, who was the grandson of the company's founder, Ferdinand Porsche.

Porsche senior, of course, had designed the Volkswagen Beetle more than 20 years earlier and it's not hard to see the basic similarities between that and the 911. The 911 was a replacement for the 356, which was the first model produced by Porsche.

Four years after it was conceived on paper, the 911 debuted at the Frankfurt Motor Show in 1963, complete with air-cooled, twin-fan engine.

You might not know that, if it wasn't for Peugeot, the 911 would have been the 901 - but the French manufacturer complained that it had the rights to cars named with three numbers with a zero in the middle. And so, with a slightly unplanned name that was to become a legend, the first cars went on sale in 1964.


A classic classic - the Carrera RS

In 1973 the 911 Carrera RS came along - a car still one of the most sought-after of all by enthusiasts.

It was built to meet motorsport homologation rules, which stipulated that a certain number of road-going versions of race cars had to be made. This was no bad thing for those wanting a hotter 911 and it's a spec that lasts right through to this day.

The RS had a bigger engine than the standard car, 2.7 litres, and power was now up to 210hp - with 49 cars getting a 2.8 lump with 295hp. And the 911 was performing on the track as well, coming second at Le Mans in 1974.

The last of the air-cooled 911s

After 34 years, the final air-cooled 911 rolled off the production line in 1998, to be replaced by cars with water-cooled powerplants.

Some purists see this as the end of 'proper' 911s, while others view it as natural development. But there's little doubt that, today, the air-cooled 911s are the most sought-after by enthusiasts.

The last air-cooled turbo, numbered the 996 internally by Porsche, will set you back well north of £100,000. In truth, all of the air-cooled variants, from the 1960s through to the 1990s, are valuable - it's no surprise, because they're all sublime in their way, whether it's the classic early lines or the 1990s sportiness that appeals.

Racing pedigree

Racing versions of the 911 have seen success in a variety of motorsport arenas over the course of its life so far.

On the track it has had plenty of success in GT racing, including at the most prestigious race of all - Le Mans. To this day it continues to scoop honours in a variety of series around the world. But it hasn't just had success on asphalt - it was also a top rally car.

You wouldn't necessarily think that a sports car designed for the road would do so well on the rough stuff, but through the 1970s and 1980s the 911 took honours in many rally events, including the famous Paris-Dakar and the World Rally Championship.


The present and the future

Today the 911 continues to be revered as one of the best, if not the best, driver's car in the world.

Although maligned by some as a car that hasn't changed much in 50 years, in fact the 911 continues to evolve constantly and in 2016 model is available in a myriad of variants.

But the basic concept is still true to the original version - rear-engined, rear-drive (although four-wheel-drive is of course available), and with a focus on pure driving pleasure.

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